Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Politics and Redemption (or, Happy First Tuesday in November!)


Wherever politics tries to be redemptive, it is promising too much. When it wishes to do the work of God, it becomes, not divine, but demonic.

Truth and Tolerance, 116

Reflection – You know, I’m in a funny position today with the blog. I am Canadian, blogging from the wilderness of the Upper Ottawa Valley. However, my primary blog readership is American. Hi, y’all! And of course there is that thingamabob happening down in the USA today—something involving appointing people to a college in Ohio or whatever—I haven’t been following it too closely.

Um, yeah. And of course we Canadians are always in an odd relationship with America—a numerically tiny country rammed up against our large powerful neighbor. We tend to take an unseemly interest in your affairs, peering through the curtains of the 49th parallel, so to speak, to see what you all are up to now.

Meanwhile, I realize that Americans in general are not crazy about us furriners sticking our oar in regarding your internal affairs. If only Canadian politics were not so dreadfully dull and pointless. At least you all inject some drama and flair into your electioneering.

So anyhow, I thought I would stick my and Ratzinger’s two cents in with the above quote. I think it is wise on a day of political sweep and excitement to offer a salutary reminder of the limitations of the political sphere.

Politics and governance (which are not the same thing, precisely) are necessary, but not necessary for salvation. Politics are not redemptive. It is so crucial to get this. Four years ago so many people honestly believed Barack Obama would save America. Many others believed he would destroy America. Four years later, America is still with us, neither saved (except by the one true Savior) nor destroyed.

I honestly don’t know who’s going to win the election today. ‘Too close to call’ and ‘We’ll find out late Tuesday evening’ have been the most honest forecasts I’ve heard. But neither four more years of President Obama nor four-eight years of President Romney will save America, and probably won’t destroy it, either. America is a tough old bird of a country.

Politics is not redemptive. We do not look to the political order to usher in the kingdom of God on earth. Whenever this has been seriously tried—the Third Reich, the Soviet Union, the Khmer Rouge, the Cultural Revolution of China, the French Revolution and its Terror—the result has been to unleash hell on earth. If the political order is truly the source and driving engine of human transcendence and perfection, then it must wage war against anything opposed to its claims, which inevitably and always means killing everyone who is ‘other,’ be it the Jews, the bourgeoisie, the ancien regime, subversives.

I rather liked Clint Eastwood’s famous ‘empty chair’ speech at the Republican convention. I especially liked the part where he said that the whole political process is basically a job interview in which the employers—the voters—hire someone to do a job. If they do a decent job, we can hire them back for another go; if they do a lousy job, we get to fire them. Nice and simple, no messianic overtones, no ‘healing the planet,’ no creeping lèse majesté, no hyperbolic blather at all.

So, you Americans, this furriner ain’t going to stick his frosty Canuck nose into your affairs and tell you who to vote for. Regular readers of this blog can probably surmise my opinions of the current occupant of the Oval Office (ahem). Go and hire him back for four more years if you like the job he’s doing and fire him if you don’t.

That’s all… and oh yes, as you do that, know that America, and Canada, and Europe, and India, and the rest of the whole wide world is healed, redeemed, held, and made the seedbed of the kingdom of God not by any human power or political program, not by ideology or economy or legislation or power broking.
 
We are saved by the merciful love of God poured out in Jesus Christ, and not one thing that happens today in the USA or anywhere else in the world can hold back that merciful love from doing its work in the heart of the world and in men and women who open their hearts to receive it.